A global jam session for development

Next week the US government will host what they are calling a “jam session” for individuals interested in, or working in the field of international development. They are calling it Global Pulse, and it will be held, live and virtual, from March 29-31.

Ideas come from other ideas....lots of light nulbs emerge from one large bulb

Using the IDM “Innovation Jam” platform, they hope to have upwards of 20,000 participants sharing ideas and brainstorming on issues such as empowering women and girls, eual access to quality education, civil rights, global health, equitable trade and environmental protection.

Its a neat idea, and an interesting use of technology. All that is required is IE6 or Firefox 1.5 or above.

Oh, and a high speed internet connection.

While I understand the technical need for the high speed connection, I wonder how many people who should be a part of the conversation will be left out?

I’ll be attending the sessions as much as possible. I’m particularly interested in how the needs of people with disabilities will be addressed in the discussions, and I’m curious to find out how people in the field are using media and communications in their programs and ideas.

Stay tuned……

Glenn Close sets back Disability Rights 50 Years

Glenn Close has won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Tony, and has been nominated for an Oscar, but she still can’t seem to get a simple PSA right. She and her sister Jessie, who has bi-polar disorder, have recently launched a new campaign to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness- but are they doing more harm than good?

The main PSA for “Bring Change 2 Mind,” does anything but. It shows a crowded train station with hundreds of people milling through, with a few in white t-shirts. These t-shirts have titles and labels on them – such as from sister, better half, to schizophrenia to bi-polar. The purpose, I’m assuming, is to put a face to the diagnosis…


But, I have a real problem with this set up. You have PEOPLE wearing labels – isn’t that what disability rights activists have been fighting for years to overcome? When these individuals walk through the train station, we don’t see them as people, we see them as diagnoses. I don’t know Glenn Close’s sister’s name, but I know what her mental illness is…

When did we stop trying to put the person first???

And what about the people who are walking with the diagnosed? Their shirts have roles written on them- sister, battle buddy, better half. But the schizophrenics, depressed, and bi-polar  are sisters, brothers, better halves, battle buddies…..are they not?

How does this video show us that people with mental illness are real people too?

It’s doesn’t.

We are not learning anything about them as people, about their lives, their daily struggles… just their diagnosis. And in my opinion, that’s damaging.

Contrast that with a stigma reduction campaign I reviewed just a few days ago from Scotland, whose tagline is “See Me” (as in, not my diagnosis). In this campaign, the PSAs share the commonality of the experiences of the people with mental illness, AND show how the people who care for them helped them out:


At no point is anyone labeled. Instead, their situation is described, concrete things to do are suggested, and in the end mental illness doesn’t seem like something we need to freak out about! It doesn’t need to show famous people donning “I’m With Stupid” t-shirts.

The only redeeming factor of the “Bring Change 2 Mind” video is that at the end of the piece, the t-shirts fade to colors, and they meld into the crowd. This is a nice touch, but only goes to undo the damage that has already been done. We haven’t gained any ground.

The more I think about it, the more I hate this campaign. The tag  line is “Change a mind about mental illness, and you can change a life.”

But how, Glenn? How do we change a mind? By wearing diagnosis t-shirts?

This campaign gives us nothing but a famous person, revealing the “skeletons in her closet,” set to a John Mayer soundtrack.

(The press that the campaign is getting is equally sickening…..but I’ll save that for part deux, tomorrow)

Got Water?

Bottle of Beau Pal water
Bottle of B'eau Pal water

Its summertime in Washington, DC, and although it has been a comparatively mild summer, it is still hot and humid enough to make you want to jump in the pool, or have a tall glass of crisp, cold water.

How about the latest in boutique bottled water, B’eau Pal?

Unlike other high end aqua refreshment, it’s source is not some glacial mountain in the Alps, or natural spring in the Adirondacks. No, this water comes straight to us from India.

Bhopal, India, to be exact. Site of the world’s largest industrial accident.

The B’eau Pal campaign is the latest from The Bhopal Medial Appeal and The Yes Men, in an effort to raise awareness about the incident and put further pressure on Dow Chemical to be held accountable.

The launch of this campaign coincides with the 25th anniversary of the accident, which has killed 20,000, and continues to kill at least one person a day.

The campaign features a beautiful red label and even includes a nutrition label, which indicates the drink has:

The campaign is clever, but not designed for mass distribution. Rather, the Yes Men had hoped to present the bottles to Dow Chemical executives earlier this month. However, word got out, and protesters found the Dow building completely empty. Had there been some kind of confrontation, perhaps there would have been more press, and consequently more awareness.

Unfortunately, all that’s left is a pretty bottle of poisoned water.

While I like the idea for the campaign, I can’t help feel like it is just there to make US feel better. Sure its witty. If the Dow folks had been there, we could really smirk. And hopefully the coverage would have raised some awareness and possible generated some funds.

But was there really hope that the campaign would change Dow’s mind about taking responsibility?

I’d like to know how the campaign measures success in this case? What’s the return on investment here?

Don’t let your work hide on a shelf!

Messy Bookshelf

Last semester I took a course on children in international development. It was an amazing overview of some of the particular development issues that hit children – child labor, trafficking, education in crisis, early marriage, HIV/AIDS to name a few.

The final project for the course was a case study and we were partnered up with others with similar interests. My partner and I decided to focus on interventions that are in place for young disabled Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

Not only did we have to turn in a paper, we also had to present our research to the class. So, rather than bore everyone with another power point, we decided to create a website.

But not only did this give us a different way to present, it also creates a ‘living document’ so to speak. It makes the information available to others, provides resources, and gives us a way to keep our work from hiding on a shelf somewhere. Because, really, what good is it going to do there?

So check it out! We incorporated videos, photos and all kinds of links!

Feedback is welcome!!


Photo: Home and Garden Webshots

Using humor in video advocacy

Its no secret that using humor in your online videos is a good strategy. But sometimes its hard to figure out how to incorporate humor into issues that aren’t funny – like human rights. Its a balance that nonprofit organizations have to strike all the time.

Here is a video that made me laugh out loud – and it turned out to be from a major human rights organization!



The information I’ve always wanted, but haven’t really been looking for!

Have you ever wondered just HOW socially responsible the companies you frequent are? Maybe you know the histories of a few, (we all know we shouldn’t shop at Wal-Mart) but wouldn’t it be great to have a database standing by to let you know what you SHOULD know about the companies you support? Do they pollute the environment? Break child labor laws? Assert political influence?

I understand the power of my wallet – I think most Americans do. But more often than not, we just don’t do our homework. After all, where do you start?

The folks at knowmore.org have made it just a little bit easier. Knowmore.org maintains a database of major corporations and any known issues – including workers’ rights abuses, human rights abuses, environmental concerns, and issues of political influence and business ethics. The database already has information on over 200 companies, and it contains praise as well as criticism.

That’s all well and good. But again, who wants to research a company everytime they run to the store? The question again becomes a matter of getting the information out there.

Again, Knowmore.org steps up to the plate with their FireFox extension (more information and download here).  A quick and simple download can help you become more socially conscious as you surf the web. The extension has three main features:

1) Company Website Alerts – if you navigate to the page of Company X and they are in the Knowmore database, an aleart will appear at the top of your FireFox browser.

2) Search Engine Integration- now when you search for brands, or products, Knowmore will display icons next to those companies’ URLs in the search results

3) Amazon Integration – Alongside products in the online amazon.com catalog, Knowmore icons will be displayed next to any corporation that appears in the database.

This tool is very easy to integrate and use in your daily activities and personally, I look forward to learning more about the companies and products I use.

Great next steps…

– where to write an organization if their business practices are unseemly- a link would be great!

– socially responsible alternatives, although this might be the job of an advertiser, not necessarily Knowmore

What else? Would this make you change your shopping habits? What would make it easier to do something with your new-found knowledge?

FaceBook to protest guerillas!

What do Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama and Oscar Morales of northern Colombia have in common?

They all use FaceBook (with varying success) to call people to action. But Morales has had far greater success than either of the Democratic candidates.

Earlier this year, Morales created the FaceBook group, One Million Voices Against the FARC and used the site to organize a worldwide protest march. The FARC and other guerilla movements began in the 1960s, and they have been accused of kidnappings, civilian massacres, political intimidation, extortion and other human rights violations.

Colombia has almost 650,000 FaceBook users, but the support for the march came from all over the globe. As the group’s popularity grew, more traditional media outlets pick up on the story. In the end, an estimated 2 million Colombians marched on February 5 in a unified show of protest, and solidarity protests were held in 193 cities throughout Latin America, Europe, North America and Asia.

What made this communication tool so effective?
Online social networking sites are a great way to get information spread throughout your network, and to simultaneously increase your network, so the basic structure and culture of the application helped.

Clarity was another factor of success. Rival and copy capt groups appeared on FaceBook calling for other marches, but their details were less clear. Said one marcher, “I received a FaceBook invite for a different march on December 16, but the message was so vague. The organizers of that event were saying they wanted peace, but they weren’t pointing out who was responsible for the violence. So I didn’t go. With this invite, it was so clear that I sent it to all my friends.”